Julian FONTANA (1810-1869)
Complete Piano Works Volume 3
Souvenir de Weber; Pot-pourri sur les motifs d’Oberon de Weber Op.5 (1843) [8:11]
L’Inquiétude Op.1 No.2 from Deux Caprices [3:22]
Rhapsodie à la Polka Op.19 [3:05]
Douze Morceaux caractéristiques en forme d’Études Op.9 Book 1 [15:11]
Lolita; Grande Valse Brillante Op.11 (1846) [6:24]
Deuxième Fantaisie Brillante sur les Motifs de Somnambule de Bellini Op.16 [7:05]
Philippe Devaux (piano)
rec. July 2010, April 2011, Polish Radio Studio S1
Includes Appendix CD [5:00] with a performance of Nocturne Op.20 performed by Joanna Lawrynowicz (piano) and the Acte Préalable 2012 catalogue and MP3 samples readable on all computers
As I wrote in my review of the second volume in this series (APO259), this recording is part of Acte Préalable’s ‘Chopin’s Disciples’ series and promotes the art of his friend, copyist, negotiator, propagandist Julian Fontana. He was also a composer in his own right, and clearly a formidable virtuoso, though it is the association with Chopin that has granted him his greatest fame. This disc, as with the others in the series, seeks to rebalance the historical perspective thus long established.
This third volume conforms to the programming precepts established by the earlier two in the series. The Douze Morceaux caractéristiques en forme d’Études, the last six of which were heard in volume 2, are completed in this volume where the first six are presented. Then there are Waltzes, pot-pourri and Fantasies such are so often to be found in the catalogues of composers of the mid-century.
The Études are seldom without interest, often replete with exciting melodies, sometimes animated by chordal left hand incitements. The third of the set is a cantilena, reflective rather more of German Romanticism than Chopin, one feels. In fact the influence of Schumann on Fontana is often most pronounced in slower music, whilst that of Liszt is most obvious in the more discursively virtuosic drama that is also Fontana’s stock in trade. Here, though, one also feels a besetting sin of Fontana’s – he’s often too ‘busy’ a composer, seldom relaxing. The nice voicings and rapid figuration, of the last of the études demonstrate that he can restrain over elaboration when he wants to.
Elsewhere there are ornamental variations on themes from Oberon—the preceding volume witnesses his elaborations on Der Freischütz—very much on stylised lines. L’Inquiétude was his Op.1 and its constantly shifting patterns are a little unsettled, though not unattractive. The Rhapsodie à la Polka Op.19 is prettily generic, whilst Lolita, a Grande Valse Brillante, is very much School of the Salon, Year of 1846. With the Deuxième Fantaisie Brillante sur les Motifs de Somnambule de Bellini we return to operatic pot-pourri, solidly done and quite brief.
There is a bonus disc which offers the label’s 2012 catalogue but also presents the first ever recording of Fontana’s Nocturne Op.20 in a performance not by the excellent French pianist Philippe Devaux, but by the equally fine Polish pianist Joanna Lawrynowicz. It’s a pleasing piece, notable for its simplicity and lack of flannel.
Jonathan Woolf